Ex-Catalan leader, freed in Belgium, blasts Spain

In this photo, Catalan President Carles Puigdemont makes a statement at the Palau Generalitat in Barcelona, Spain on Thursday, October 26, 2017. (File photo by AP)
Updated 06 November 2017
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Ex-Catalan leader, freed in Belgium, blasts Spain

BRUSSELS: Catalonia’s sacked separatist leader Carles Puigdemont on Monday denounced Spain as an undemocratic country that “unjustly” jailed his colleagues, after he was freed on bail in Belgium.
Puigdemont and four former ministers were released with conditions Sunday night after turning themselves in to Belgian authorities to face a Spanish warrant for their arrest on charges of rebellion and sedition.
“Released without bail. Our thoughts are with colleagues unjustly imprisoned by a state that is far from democratic norms,” Puigdemont said on Twitter hours after the five were released Sunday night.
A Spanish judge in Madrid had on Thursday put Puigdemont’s deputy and seven other deposed regional ministers behind bars because of a risk they would flee.
Belgium’s Foreign Minister Didier Reynders insisted it was a legal matter and not one for politicians to deal with, despite recent criticism of Spain from some Flemish separatist members of his own government.
“We must let the Belgian and Spanish courts do their work,” Reynders told his country’s media.
Puigdemont and his allies escaped to Belgium last Monday after Spain dismissed the Catalan executive and imposed direct rule on the semi-autonomous region following the declaration of independence by the parliament there last month.
Spain issued European arrest warrants on Friday after Puigdemont and his allies ignored a summons to appear before a judge on allegations linked to the move to declare Catalonia an independent republic.
Puigdemont’s PDeCAT party said Sunday that he had turned himself in to show his “willingness not to flee from the judicial process but to defend himself in a fair and impartial process, which is possible in Belgium, and highly doubtful in Spain.”
The next court hearing will be in the following 15 days. Belgium has up to 60 days to decide whether to send the Catalans back to Spain.
Puigdemont has said he and his colleagues — Meritxell Serret, Antoni Comin, Lluis Puig and Clara Ponsati — would cooperate with the Belgian authorities.


Thailand says US man’s seasteading home violates sovereignty

Updated 15 min 57 sec ago
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Thailand says US man’s seasteading home violates sovereignty

BANGKOK: Thai authorities have raided a floating home in the Andaman Sea belonging to an American man and his Thai partner who sought to be pioneers in the “seasteading” movement, which promotes living in international waters to be free of any nation’s laws.
Thailand’s navy said Chad Elwartowski and Supranee Thepdet endangered national sovereignty, an offense punishable by life imprisonment or death.
It filed a complaint against them with police on the southern resort island of Phuket. Thai authorities said they have revoked Elwartowski’s visa.
Elwartowski said in an email Thursday that he believes he and Supranee — also known as Nadia Summergirl — did nothing wrong.
“This is ridiculous,” he said in an earlier statement posted online. “We lived on a floating house boat for a few weeks and now Thailand wants us killed.”
The couple, who have gone into hiding, had been living part-time on a small structure they said was anchored outside Thailand’s territorial waters, just over 12 nautical miles from shore. They were not there when the navy carried out their raid on Saturday.
The Thai deputy naval commander responsible for the area said the project was a challenge to the country’s authorities.
“This affects our national security and cannot be allowed,” Rear Adm. Wintharat Kotchaseni told Thai media on Tuesday. He said the floating house also posed a safety threat to navigation if it broke loose because the area is considered a shipping lane.
Seasteading has had a revival in recent years as libertarian ideas of living free from state interference — such as by using crypto-currency including Bitcoin — have become more popular, including among influential Silicon Valley figures such as entrepreneur Peter Thiel. Elwartowski, an IT specialist, has been involved in Bitcoin since 2010.
Several larger-scale projects are under development, but some in the seasteading community have credited the Andaman Sea house with being the first modern implementation of seasteading.
“The first thing to do is whatever I can to help Chad & Nadia, because living on a weird self-built structure and dreaming of future sovereignty should be considered harmless eccentricities, not major crimes,” Patri Friedman, a former Google engineer who heads The Seasteading Institute, said on his Facebook page.
The floating two-story octagonal house at the center of the controversy had been profiled and promoted online by a group called Ocean Builders, which touted it as a pilot project and sought to sell additional units.
The group describes itself as “a team of engineering focused entrepreneurs who have a passion for seasteading and are willing to put the hard work and effort forward to see that it happens.”
In online statements, both Elwartowski and Ocean Builders said the couple merely promoted and lived on the structure, and did not fund, design, build or set the location for it.
“I was volunteering for the project promoting it with the desire to be able to be the first seasteader and continue promoting it while living on the platform,” Elwartowski told The Associated Press.
“Being a foreigner in a foreign land, seeing the news that they want to give me the death penalty for just living on a floating house had me quite scared,” Elwartowski said. “We are still quite scared for our lives. We seriously did not think we were doing anything wrong and thought this would be a huge benefit for Thailand in so many ways.”
Asked his next step, he was more optimistic.
“I believe my lawyer can come to an amicable agreement with the Thai government,” he said.